Casablanca: Market Stroll

Casablanca

Morocco

April 16, 2013

Bonjour,

The group tour and the serious sightseeing start tomorrow. For today, I decide on my favorite activity.  I have no plans, no guidebook, no destination in mind.   I just take a walk.

The doorman suggests I make a left turn from the hotel entrance.  I go two blocks along the horn polluted boulevard lined with travel agencies, banks and international hotels.  I take another left turn at the creatively-uncreative Sheraton down a narrow street towards what I hope will be a less modern “neighborhood.” 

With its eclectic architectural mix of proud yet slightly dilapidated buildings from the 1920's and 1930's, this business-residential area reminds me of nowhere else I have ever been.  Maybe Cairo without the mosques or Alexandria without the sea. 

Each entrance door boasts a unique wrought iron design.

Is Casablanca a particularly litigious city?  Dozens of brass plaques at the doorways announced an “avocat.” 

I take another left and yet another. The side streets off the side streets are always where the action is.  Voila! My favorite unplanned destination.  A local market! 

Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh flowers – mostly red and orange roses, beef, poultry, a dozen types of honey. A lady grinds almonds into almond juice. My favorite: dried fruit and nuts.  I load up on a sack of noix, dattes medjool, et les raisins blancs.

I take lunch at an outdoor table in the market: chopped tomato salad, warm lentils, crunchy bread for dipping in a soup of blended tomato, and fried fish that I think is a large variety of sardine.

I feel comfortable. I feel safe.  Everyone is friendly.  Everyone smiles when I attempt my pathetic French or my almost non-existent Arabic.

From the moment I boarded my flight in Bangkok, through the connection in Cairo and now on the streets of Casablanca, I am shocked by only one thing. Folks here are large! 

Most of the women at home in Southeast Asia are of the slim 45 to 55 kilo variety.    Here in North Africa, a robust 60 to 80 appears the norm.  And while many are dressed in a conservative style with a head scarf and modest clothing, some are more modern, with a colorful scarf but in jeans and high heels.  The more daring ladies display a décolletage that would make my Thai friends dream with envy.

The men are mostly just big.  Some are tall and slim with those new spike hairdos. Some are quite muscular.  Most are just round and big.  The culprits are bread and pastry?

On my first day in Morocco I am strong.  I resist the temptations of the napoleons and the éclairs, the 1000 calorie fruit tarts and the mocha cakes on display in the bakery showcases.

Mais, finalement, I succumb to a crème caramel and a café au lait.

Here in Morocco, Insha’Allah, I pray I stay tall and strong, and remain the 87 kilo variety.

Au revoir,

Jan

PS  Je pense que mon ex-épouse et le extraordinaire professeur de français, le regretté Alice Dawn serait fier de moi. Depuis les profondeurs de ma mémoire, je me souviens des six ou sept mots de ma faible vocabulaire français.

 

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